University of Central Arkansas

Graybeal earns two national recognitions for service-learning work

Conway Institute of Music

CONWAYUniversity of Central Arkansas Service-Learning Director Lesley Graybeal recently earned two national awards for the university’s work in service-learning.

Graybeal received the John Saltmarsh Award for Emerging Leaders in Civic Engagement from the American Democracy Project in June. She also earned the Outstanding Practitioner Contributions to Service-Learning in Higher Education award at the Gulf-South Summit on Service-Learning and Civic Engagement through Higher Education held in April.

Lesley Graybeal
Lesley Graybeal

The John Saltmarsh Award for Emerging Leaders in Civic Engagement from the American Democracy Project is an initiative of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) and is given in recognition of exemplary early-career leaders who are advancing the wider civic engagement movement through higher education to build a broader public culture of democracy. Award recipients were recognized at the Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement meeting held in Boston earlier this month.

“I have been honored to be able to ensure that UCA students have access to civic engagement opportunities like volunteering in our community and getting registered to vote for the first time,” said Graybeal. “Young people are already leaders in our communities, and their passion and innovation are invaluable. Here in Conway, we are fortunate to have an amazing place for college students to get involved as they practice what it means to be active community members.”

AASCU recognized Graybeal’s effort to build faculty capacity, develop community partnerships, impact student civic development and create institutional change in innovative ways, including consistently providing excellent contributions to the civic engagement field through her publications.

Namesake of the AASCU award and visiting fellow with the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching John Saltmarsh said, “Dr. Graybeal is clearly an emerging leader in community engagement who can help to shape community engagement in higher education in the future.”

Graybeal has led UCA’s service-learning and civic engagement initiatives since 2015. Her work includes advising service- and civic engagement-related student organizations, supporting faculty in developing service-learning courses, coordinating professional development and networking opportunities for nonprofits and championing constructive dialogue initiatives.

The 2023 Gulf-South Summit on Service-Learning and Civic Engagement Through Higher Education recognized faculty, staff and partners of universities and institutions from across the Southeast. The summit was held in April at the University of Georgia.

Graybeal received the award for Outstanding Practitioner Contributions to Service-Learning in Higher Education and was recognized for excellence in creating, implementing and sustaining opportunities for engaging college and university students in service-learning and for her leadership in civic engagement.

The Gulf-South Summit is the region’s largest conference bringing together practitioners, research, sustainable programs and a culture of engagement and public awareness through service-learning and other forms of civic engagement. More than 300 professionals, educators and students in service-learning and civic engagement fields attended the 2023 conference.

Graybeal said, “Service-learning and civic engagement are so important to giving students a meaningful higher education experience that allows them to make a difference in their communities and gain practical skills for life after graduation. These valuable learning experiences aren’t possible without the work of passionate, hard-working faculty and community leaders willing to provide these opportunities.”

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